Make a Joyful Noise, Together

Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.

Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.


Psalm 96

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
    break forth into
joyous song and sing praises!
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
    with the lyre and the sound of melody!
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
    make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
    the world and those who dwell in it!
Let the rivers clap their hands;
    let the hills sing for joy together
 before the Lord.


Psalm 98

A little about singing.

In those verses, “sing” is mentioned 6 times and “joy” is referenced 4 times. As we know, when things are repeated in the Bible, we should probably pay attention.

God commands us to sing, as even He sings over His people (Zephaniah 3:17). If we are to be like Him, singing should be a natural response. However, in our human condition, singing is an action that can be separated from the condition of our heart; A joyful noise is different – it is a reflection of our heart. Our musical talent (or lack thereof), our comfort, and even our song preference cannot quench a joyful noise. A joyful noise can be made in any circumstance – a season of blessings or a season of sorrow – because joy is not dependent on our feelings, it is dependent on the finished work of Jesus. A joyful noise is our response to what is already done. Therefore, joy should be evident in our singing.

With that established, why do we sing together?

Imagine you’re at a concert of a major hit band. For example, my family went to see the Eagles last year. Guaranteed everyone knows at least one lyric to one of their songs. Picture the band coming out on stage, the first chord is played and the arena becomes alive with lights, sounds, and voices. You quickly realize the stranger to your left and right are singing the same words you are. What do you feel? Unified and excited – an atmosphere has changed. You don’t even know these people, but you’re all having a great time because you all know and love this band and song.

Unified voices are powerful, exciting, loud, and effective. An atmosphere changes when the Holy Spirit is present and we, God’s people, are singing together. We’re proclaiming the gospel, together. We’re lifting Jesus high, together. You’re making a statement to the people on your left and your right that you know and love the One we are singing to. Singing in unity encourages the entire body. Singing over one another is commanded.

Ephesians 5:19-20 says, “be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Being committed to vertically focused, theologically rich songs here at Community Bible means we are also committed a congregation fully engaged and singing the Word over one another. Your singing is encouraging someone near you in a season of struggle. Your singing is reminding someone the truth of the Gospel. Your singing is a testimony in your own struggle that you can still make a joyful noise in sorrow.

So, how do we prepare to sing together at Community Bible?

Within the parameters of vertically focused, theologically accurate songs, we plan our worship each week to thematically lead us to response. Thematic planning gives us an entire morning to lean in to a specific aspect of who God is or a Truth He is trying to teach us. Each sermon series is planned out in advance and song selections are made based on the passage of Scripture we’re going to be studying. For example, our worship story two weeks ago looked something like this:

All the Earth sings of creation who was made to praise our Creator. Recognition of our sin that separated us from our Creator lead us to repentance and Jesus Thank You. Because of Christ’s sacrifice reconciling us to the Father, we are secure in our identity (Who You Say I Am). This set our hearts on a path of full focus on our lives hidden in Christ. Aaron preached on Obedience and in order to fully surrender our lives in obedience to Christ, we must let all worldly things Fade Away.

We don’t pick songs at random or just because they’re popular. They’re prayerfully considered and planned in advance because we want to steward the time we have together well. We want to sing as we are commanded, not only growing in our own relationship with Jesus, but growing in unity as we make a joyful noise, together.

3 Ways to Worship

While every action and every thought is a platform for worshiping God, there is just something about worshiping God through music and singing that really helps us to redirect our minds and hearts away from whatever they might be latched onto, and place it back onto God. Worshiping God through music is a way of tuning our hearts back to the Spirit of God.

An anonymous author once wrote, “Worship will get you through the roughest times of your life, because it shifts your focus from the problem to the problem solver.”

With that, there are many different ways for us redirect our minds attention and the affection of our heart back onto the Lord Jesus as we worship Him in song.

In this blog, I want to share a few with you.

CELEBRATE

When we celebrate someone, we are making much of them and we are honoring them for who they are and often times for something that they have done or completed.

When we celebrate Jesus, we are making much of Him and recognizing that He is our Creator, our Lord, and our Savior.

Colossians 1 tells us that, “he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into [His kingdom], [in Him] we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Because of what Jesus did in possessing equality with God yet coming to earth in the likeness of man and ultimately becoming obedient to the point of death (Phil. 2), we have  been rescued, redeemed and forgiven. That means that regardless of how hard your week, month, or year has been, your life is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3) and you have an inheritance in Christ that never spoils or fades (1 Pet. 1).  Because of that, in Christ you have hope, purpose and provision – forever!

That means that even on your worst day, you always have reason to celebrate! Think on this reality the next time you worship the Lord through music.

REMEMBER

You may have heard it said before that past provision is evidence of future faithfulness.

I think its easy when we are in the middle of difficulty to place all of our attention and all of our thoughts onto the present circumstance and easily start feeling afraid and overwhelmed. And I totally get that.

But the reality is that when we do that, when we try on our own to pull ourselves out of a difficult situation, we fail to remember God’s faithfulness of the past and we fail to pause and let Him take control and be faithful again.

Malachi 3:6 tells us “I am the Lord, I change not!”

That means that God doesn’t change – He stays the same when everything around you changes and when relationships and circumstances change, God’s love and God’s care for us Does. Not. Change.

Let me ask you this, has God provided for you in the past?

If that answer is yes, if God has proven to be faithful and has proven that He is not going to leave you and forsake you (Deut. 31), then we can rest in the fact that He is not going to do that in the future either. That doesn’t mean that life is always going to be easy or that things are going to work out how we think they should, but it DOES mean that God is going to provide for us, He is going to care for us and give us what we need.

As you lift up the name of Jesus during musical worship, I want to encourage you to remember and think back on the faithfulness of God in the past. How has He proven His love for you? How has he redeemed you and provided for you? How has He delivered you and shown His love to you?

ANNOUNCE

Keith Getty writes, “our churches themselves bear witness to the gospel…the sight and sound of a congregation singing praise to God together is a radical witness in a culture that rejects God and embraces individualism. Our songs are the public manifesto of what we believe.”

As followers of Christ, we are called and commanded to make disciples of all nations. That means we do that through our words and through our actions as we live as a light in a dark world, but that also means we make disciples and we display the gospel through our worship as well.

Tim Keller says, “there is nothing more evangelistic, nothing that will win the world more than glorious worship.”

Acts chapter 2, after the Holy Spirit came down at Pentecost, verse 42-47 describes the kingdom life lived out by the early church. It says (amongst other things) that they were attending temple daily, receiving their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

When God’s people come together and worship Him with glad and generous hearts through lifting up His name in song, people watch. People become interested. Lives changed. It just happens.

So as we worship together through music and singing let us announce to each other and to those around us watching in our community that Jesus is Lord and that there is hope in the gospel!

Celebrate. Remember. Announce.

NextGen News

Greetings, CBC family! I wanted to update you with what we have been going through and what we have been learning over the last couple months as a student ministry. Whether you are a parent of a middle school or high school student or even if you do not have children, I hope that informing you as to what our students have been growing in will not only encourage you personally, but it will also show you how you can pray more specifically for our students. 

If you did not already know, each week our students meet for tribe groups. Their tribal groups (or small groups) are broken up by grade and gender and are led by an adult. We find that discipleship best happens in relationship. Because of that, it is my desire that the conversations that happen on Sundays between students and leaders will be the starting point for a more meaningful relationship throughout the week. Each Sunday, after a 25-30 minute sermon, students and leaders continue the conversation from stage with each other at their individual tables.  

For the last 3-4 months, we have been going through a series by J.D. Greear called “Gospel Revolution.” It has been my desire in going through this series that our students would be able to see their entire lives through a gospel lens. I find that often times students may be able to articulate the gospel in terms of how they came to be a Christian, but they do not know what to do with the gospel after that. They understand that God created everything, that Jesus died on the cross for them and rose again, and they may have made a profession of faith at some point in their life, but after that, they don’t really know how to connect the cross with the daily details of their life. “How does the gospel speak into my identity and the way I view myself? How does the gospel affect my relationships? How does the gospel continue to change me after I make a decision to follow Jesus? How does the gospel affect the way I interact with my friends on my team or what I watch on Netflix? How does the gospel speak into my insecurities and my fears? How does the gospel affect the way I process and cope with personal tragedy and failure? How does the gospel speak into my feelings of loneliness and isolation? While these are not questions that can simply be answered over the course of a few weeks, it is my hope that this series will help students to start seeing that the gospel changes everything!

During week 1, we talked about Gospel Change and we determined that Gospel change is a lot different from religious change because religious change is only on the outside. Religious change is nothing more than us manipulating how we look to other people when the condition of our heart is still the same – full of sin. Gospel change starts on the inside and is a fruit of being made new in Christ. Gospel change is often messier than religious change, but is the only change that honors God and ultimately changes the condition of our hearts. 

In week 2, the title of the lesson was Gospel Discovery. We talked about the importance of having a sense of awe and amazement at who God is and how He is active in both our lives and in the world. To mention Paul David Tripp, we (humanity) do not have merely a sin problem, we have an awe problem. We worship and we direct our lives towards that which we are most in awe of. Being in awe of the gospel is different than simply agreeing with the events of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Being in awe of Jesus and what He did for us on the cross draws us in to experience intimacy in relationship with Him.  

During week 3, we talked about Gospel Acceptance and the gospel prayer for that week was, “in Christ, there is nothing I can do that would make God love me any more and there is nothing I can do that would make God love me any less….” The reason that God loves me and the reason that God accepts me – once you have trusted in Christ for salvation and have confessed Him as Lord – is because when God looks at me and you, He sees the blood of Jesus covering me.

For week 4, we talked about Gospel Approval. The gospel prayer for this week was – “your presence and approval are all I need for everlasting joy….” We naturally look for approval in everyone else other than God and because of that we end up bitter and unsatisfied and constantly trying to impress people. However, since God looks at us with joy and approval because of Christ, we can have a deep sense of joy and satisfaction that is not controlled by what other people think about us.

In week 5, the title of the lesson was Gospel Response and the gospel prayer was – “as you have been to me, so I will be to others…” A theme that is laced all throughout scripture starting with the children of Israel all the way to the great commission in the New testament is that God blesses us to be a blessing. He gives us salvation, not for us to just keep to ourselves and go about life, however we want, he saves us so we will go and extend the same grace to others. 

In week 6, the title was Gospel Faith. We looked more specifically at faith in terms of how it affects our prayer life. The gospel prayer (which is the last in the series) was “as I pray, I will measure your compassion by the cross and your power by the resurrection.” Even though we see the level of God’s compassion for us on the cross, and we see God’s limitless power in raising Jesus from the dead – we often do not pray to Him like He is compassionate and powerful. Instead, we often pray to Him like He is distant or like He doesn’t have enough time for us or that He is incapable of helping us. How would our prayers change if we actually prayed in light of both God’s compassion – displayed in His willingness to die on the cross for us, and His power – displayed in Jesus raising from the dead on the third day and conquering sin?

During week 7, we investigated the idea of Substitute Gospels. We made the observation that there are many worldviews and ways of thinking about life that are both explicitly (being obvious) and implicitly (being more difficult to discern on the surface) different than the gospel. It could be another religion which worships a different god like Islam or Hinduism, or it could also be something that may look legitimate on the surface and may even use similar language but once you get down to the root it is fundamentally different than the gospel of Jesus – such as Unitarianism, the prosperity gospel, etc. Not only are there worldviews that are fundamentally opposed to the gospel which have names attached to them, we also can adopt ways of thinking and personal belief systems that may not have a name and may not even be spoken out loud, but are functionally a substitute of the gospel. Because of this, we need to listen to Paul’s warning in 2 Timothy to “guard the deposit entrusted to you.” One of the ways we can do that is by hiding “hiding God’s Word in our heart, so that we might not sin against Him” (Ps. 119:11). 

And finally, this Sunday we will investigate the last topic in our Gospel series, Gospel Depth. In closing out our series, we are going to discuss how our spiritual grow never goes above or beyond the gospel. You may become the most brilliant theologian, the most gifted evangelist, or the most passionate missionary the world has ever seen, but your spiritual development must only go deeper into the gospel of Jesus and never outside of it. That is the beauty of the gospel – a child can understand their need for the gospel and can have the ability to confess Jesus as Lord, while at the same time, the most renowned theological scholar cannot fully understand and articulate the weightiness of the gospel. In closing, as J.D. Greear puts it, “the gospel is not just the diving board, it’s the pool itself.” That means that once we are in Christ, real spiritual growth starts with the gospel (justification) and continues in the gospel as we are gradually transformed more into the image of Christ (sanctification).

Authenticity and How It Applies to Discipling the Next Generation

As a pendulum swings back and forth, so it seems that each up and coming generation intentionally attempts to move in the opposite direction of its predecessor – especially in the areas that the former generation clearly “missed the mark” on. One generation wants the big “gas guzzling SUV’s” and the next generation is all about the fuel efficient Prius. One generation is all about moving to the suburbs and the next generation flocks to the city…while not everyone, of course, fits into these generalizations that I am creating – you get the picture.

Perhaps one of the primary “swings” that characterizes younger generations (millennials and gen z) is their, or should I say our, emphasis on authenticity. You have heard the phrase before, “you be you.” I recognize that I am painting with a pretty broad stroke here, however I find that the majority of young people do not want to be trapped behind the exhaustion of managing false identities. They would rather be seen for who they really are – including the colorful, unorthodox and even embarrassing details, than hide behind the perceived “fake-ness” that often characterizes older generations. You know, the classic get in a huge fight on the way to church in the minivan, pull up in the parking lot, get out, put on the obligatory smiling faces followed by the “I’m doing great how are you?” In fact, a major consumer report performed in 2017 found that authenticity in branding is important to nearly 90% of millennials. This finding was summarized with the statement “authenticity is more important than ever.”

While this pendulum swing towards authenticity seems to be the trend right now amongst younger generations, it’s important to remember that while there is definitely some warrant to this trend, this swing will reveal its own set of problems – eventually resulting in a swing towards a new direction. One thing that history shows us is that even mankind’s best attempts at creating peace and resolution will always end with a new cycle of destruction and failure.

As Christians what should our response be to this? If we really do possess the only hope that humanity has of restoration and eternal purpose, how do we leverage our current generation’s swing towards authenticity for making disciples of Jesus? There are, without a doubt, benefits of making disciples of people that value and desire authenticity over status. In some ways, that gives us, as the church, some pretty fertile ministry ground because hearts are more open to truth than perhaps previous generations. However, the primary danger is that there must be an underlying recognition that “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9 ESV). The problem with wanting nothing short of “you being you,” as the phrase goes, is that “us being us” will ultimately end in a destruction of our own making.

With that being said, here are a few pieces of advice on cultivating authenticity within the process of discipleship – especially when it comes to younger generations. These ideas are not clear cut but are more so an attempt to lay out some boundaries to stay within while spending time speaking truth into the life of someone you may be discipling. Also, it is helpful to start with the understanding that when you disciple someone, you are helping point them towards Christ with the goal of that person growing in their pursuit of holiness and in their worship of Jesus, but you are also inviting them into your life to see how God has and is sanctifying you as well. When you take this approach, which I would also argue is the biblical approach, you are giving that person a front row seat to see the ways that the Spirit of God has sanctified you, you are automatically positioning yourself as being more relatable, and you are giving that person a snapshot of your own sin struggle as well.

What authenticity within discipleship is:

  • -sharing the victories and spiritual successes of your life
  • -allowing others to see your weakness, insecurity, and failures
  • -letting go of the idol of managing a constantly positive attitude that is rooted in pride
  • -still letting the attention and focus be on them

What authenticity within discipleship is not:

  • -romanticizing your process of sanctification
  • -crossing boundaries of appropriateness (especially depending on the age/maturity level of the person you are discipling)
  • -having a bad attitude when you don’t feel like being pleasant
  • -shifting the focus and attention on yourself

I hope this blog was helpful to you as we, alongside of each other at CBC, magnify Jesus Christ by making disciples who advance the mission of God among all people!

Be Still

I struggle with being still. Even in the moments that I do “nothing,” my mind will race with all the things I need to be doing, deadlines I need to meet or things I need to plan. I’ll find myself scrolling Pinterest to plan the next meal, texting a friend to catch up, or over-thinking every possible outcome to a situation I’m facing, all while I’m supposed to be resting. In a culture where there are things to occupy our time right at our fingertips (and a baby that likes to have a ninja party every time I sit down), there isn’t a lot of silence or stillness in my life right now. I’d be willing to bet many of us feel this same struggle every day.

Many times, over the last couple of months, I’ve been reminded to find and cherish my moments of stillness before there’s a newborn that needs my attention. The moments of silence will be less and less. I’ll be torn in more directions, and managing time, relationships and work will be anything but peaceful for a while. I’m challenged by this, I have intentions to follow the advice, yet I still find myself in a cycle of forgetting to stop and be still.

Apart from the busyness of life, I’m learning there’s a spiritual stillness that suffers from my inability to turn things off. After Aaron’s sermon this week, I was convicted that my prayer life has not been what it should be because it’s always interrupted with a thought that draws my attention away from the Lord quicker than I can stop it. We even have Bible apps on our phones, so am I completely still before the Lord when I have good intentions to read the Word and spend time with Him? No, because a notification comes through that draws me away, even if it’s for a split second. I think we often settle for “kind of quiet” because there is noise all around us, but I fully know in my heart that God has called us to more.

God calls us to “be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).” “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him (Psalm 37:37).” He tells Job, “Stop and consider the wondrous works of God (Job 37:14).” These aren’t suggestions, they’re commands. God’s desire is to be with us in the quiet, where His voice is heard because we’ve surrendered completely to finding intimacy with Him. God’s desire is to quiet our anxiety, quiet our need to control, quiet our plans and spend time with His children to mold our hearts to His. God’s desire is for us to pray, of course, but also to listen.

I’m challenging myself, and you, to find time this week to be completely still. Put away the phone, use a real Bible, journal, find a space with minimal distractions. Be still and think on the works of God in your life. Be still and listen for His voice. Be still and put aside the things that tear us in all different directions and rob our souls of intimacy with our Father. We may think there are more important things to do than sit in potential awkward silence, but the Lord has commanded us to still our hearts and minds to rest in His presence.

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Psalm 62:5